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to reverse one's opinion or viewpoint


backpedal (fig.) = sich von einer vorhergehenden Haltung bzw. Meinung absetzen, zurückrudern, einen Rückzieher machen backpedal (Fahrrad) = die Pedale rückwärts treten backpedal (Boxsport) = sich rückwärts in kleinen, schnellen Schritten bewegen (DH) --- GOOGLE INDEX backpedal: approximately 200,000 hits



But as the threat of a strike mounted throughout Wednesday, the firm begun to BACKPEDAL furiously, stressing that the proposed cuts are still hypothetical.

(adapted from BBC News)

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd today quickly BACKPEDALLED from his colleague's comments, made in a speech last night, saying the timing of the remarks was insensitive.

(The Herald Sun)

Did you


- to retreat or withdraw from a position or attitude

- to move the pedals of a bicycle or similar vehicle backward, especially to apply a brake

- to move backward by taking short quick steps, as in boxing or football

(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition)


The figurative sense of backpedal, to reverse one's opinion, comes from the literal sense of going in reverse by moving the pedals of a vehicle backwards. Politicians and other public figures are frequently accused of backpedalling. We say "accused" because in this context backpedalling has a negative tone.

Politicians in particular are expected to take a certain position and stick with it. But when they do change their opinion, this opens the door for opponents and critics to claim that this reversal is only being done for political gain (in some ways it sounds silly to criticise a politician for seeking "political" gain).

Backpedalling is also part of the world of sports, such as the boxer who moves backward to avoid getting punched or the football player who runs on the pitch in reverse to take a defensive position when the other team has control of the ball.


abandon, alibi, back down, back off, back out, cop out, desert, distance oneself, dodge, excuse, pull back, rationalize, recede, renege, renounce, retreat, reverse, revoke, shrink, welsh, withdraw

(Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus)


be ready, face, tackle, take on, undertake

(Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus)

say something like:

"After arguing for nearly two hours about what direction to take the company, she started to backpedal."

Thanks to Thomas for suggesting today's word!

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